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April 20, 2020

Why Don't You Just Die?

Die two.jpg

Papa, sdokhni
Kirill Sokolov - 2019
Arrow Films

The one thing that is best remembered about Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain is the fight to the death between Paul Newman and Wolfgang Kieling. The audience is reminded that not only is it not only not easy to kill somebody, but that the human body as well as the urge to live can be surprisingly resilient. Russian filmmaker Kiril Sokolov has taken that one scene, indirectly, and made an entire feature where all the main characters at least temporarily survive body blows, maiming, knife wounds and shotgun blasts. Black comedy does not come much darker than this.

A young man with a Batman hoodie, Matwei, shows up at an apartment holding a hammer. The hammer is hidden behind his back when the apartment door is open. An older man, large, and with a completely shaved head, answers. He is Andrei, father of Olya, the young woman Matwei says he is to meet at the apartment. The two eye each other suspiciously. Andrei reveals himself to be a detective as well as a highly concerned parent. And why does Matwei have a hammer with him? Is it really for a friend?

Most of the action takes place in Andrei's apartment, primarily in the living room which turns into the main battlefield. There are flashbacks revealing more about Andrei, Olya and Matwei. This is a story about double crosses and toxic family relationships. Even when the characters try to do the right thing, someone get killed by accident. The Russian title translates as "Daddy, die", but the English title makes more sense when you have four characters literally fighting for their personal survival.

This blood drenched film is hardly subtle, although I would recommend that viewers pay some attention to details in the background in addition to the activity in front of the camera. Sokolov's influences are easy to detect in some cases with his music queues - part of the score sounds like a variation of the Shostakovich waltz used in Eyes Wide Shut, while another scene echoes the music associated with Italian Westerns. Some of the crashing and bashing is rendered in slow motion. There are also little digressions, as when the viewer is shown how handcuffs can or can not be unlocked with a bobby pin. While several reviews of the film from its festival run cite the influence of Quentin Tarantino due to the depiction of violence, I would say Why Don't You Just Die? has more in common with the Coen brothers' Blood Simple in the basic setup as well as their other films with their darkly comic, and often accidental, deaths and injuries.

It should be noted that Why Don't You Just Die? was to get a theatrical release until current events made that impossible. Instead, the film is getting a VOD release today, but will also have a blu-ray release tomorrow. I've only been able to see the film and can not comment on the blu-ray, but my past experience is that for those interested in a deeper dive, Arrow's commentary tracks and extras are usually excellent.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 20, 2020 06:39 AM